Wild Speculation: Why a $2B AMD purchase would be a puzzle piece fit for Apple

Things aren’t looking good for chipmaker AMD…Following another round of layoffs totaling about 15 percent of its employees last month, Reuters reported today that AMD is looking for an investor to sell its Texas campus in order to raise up to $200 million in cash in a multi-year lease back deal. AMD’s cash dropped from $279 million to $1.48 billion in the third quarter, and today the company sits at a market cap of $1.40 billion.

Despite not being the “main option,” with the restructuring and the company’s financial issues, Reuters’ sources claimed an outright sale of the company isn’t out of the question. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard chatter of an AMD takeover. However, with the company sitting at a market cap of $1.40 billion and rumors of Bob Mansfield’s new Technologies group possibly transitioning away from Intel processors, we can’t help but imagine a few things Apple would stand to gain from the purchase…

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Assertive Display tech demoed on iPad at IFA- intelligently adjusts pixels in realtime to make content viewable in sunlight

As part the International keynote presentations at IFA this year, AMD exec and president of the HSA foundation, Phil Rogers, took the stage to give an update on the current state of the not-for-profit alliance. For those of you unfamiliar with the foundation, HSA (Heterogeneous System Architecture), is described as “a heterogeneous compute ecosystem, rooted in industry standards, for combining scalar processing on the CPU with parallel processing on the GPU while enabling high bandwidth access to memory and high application performance at low power consumption.”

While the addition of Samsung, among other partners Texas Instruments, ARM, AMD, and Imagination Technologies, was the big news of the day for most, a short demo by partner Apical was what really caught our attention.

Apical’s “Assertive Display” technology is already present in a few devices, such as Sharp’s AQUOS PHONE SH-01D, but during its demo for the HSA keynote, Apical showed off the tech working on an iPad…

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Report: Apple to return to Nvidia for Mac Pro graphics in Nehalem update

It looks like Apple could (again) select the graphics giant Nvidia as the primary GPU provider for the upcoming Mac Pro hardware refresh. According to a mostly speculative story by MIC Gadget based on unnamed industry sources, new Mac Pros will feature Intel’s upcoming Ivy Bridge chipset fabbed on the chip maker’s latest 22-nanometer Trigate transistor technology (no surprise there). According to Intel, 22nm Ivy Bridge silicon claims a 37 percent speed jump and lower power consumption compared to the chip giant’s 32 nanometer planar transistors. ‘Trigate’ Ivy Bridge chips can feature up to eight processing cores and are more power-savvy, so they should help scale frequency, too. On a more interesting note, MIC Gadget speculates Apple could switch back to Nvidia as the primary supplier of next-generation GPUs for the new Mac Pros.

Nvidia has their “Kepler” platform due out around the same time as Intel is making their changes, and our sources within the company indicate that they have chosen to have Nvidia lead the charge so to speak on the graphics front.

Eagle-eyed readers could mention that AMD recently released the Radeon HD 7970 graphics card powered by the Tahiti GPU (its nearest rival is Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 590), with observes deeming it Apple’s go-to graphics card for future Mac Pros. Indeed, traces of support for Tahiti-driven AMD GPUs are found in Mac OS X Lion 10.7.3, at least indicating people might be able to upgrade their future Mac Pro with this card. Oh, and it’s great for Hackintosh builders, too.

Also indicative is a March 2011 Snow Leopard 10.6.7 update that enabled support for a bunch of AMD/ATI Radeon HD 5xxx and 6xxx cards, not all of which were in Macs at the time. On the other hand, a speculative switch to Nvidia would not be out of character as California-based Apple is known for frequently switching between Nvidia chips and those manufactured by rival AMD…

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Apple threatening to leave Intel behind for next MacBook Air (A6?)

(Substitute PowerPC for Intel and Intel for ARM)

There are a lot of people who think Apple is going to eventually move its “Mac” line to iOS. In fact we found it curious when Apple turned ‘MacOSX’ to ‘OSX’ as of Lion earlier this year.

Steve Jobs and Apple in general are very sensitive to CPU power issues with their push to make high end devices thinner.

As part of the WSJ article on Intel spending $300 million on developing MacBook Air alternatives (a hint in itself – why does Intel need to create competition for its own Air), it was revealed that Apple was threatening to leave Intel’s ‘low power’ processors if they didn’t drastically cut power.

Welch said Apple informed Intel that it better drastically slash its power consumption or would likely lose Apple’s business. “It was a real wake-up call to us,” he said.

What are the alternative processors for the MacBook Air? AMD? Not likely (though not impossible).

The big alternative is a platform switch to ARM which certainly schools the Atom Chip in terms of power consumption. It would also mess with a lot of non-App Store Apps built on legacy code.

But, you know Apple would love to create a cheaper, thinner, more power efficient iAir type of hybrid device that still operated like a laptop. In fact, Lion seems to already be heading in that direction.

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New iMacs and MacBook Pros out-blur Mac Pros in Final Cut Pro X benchmarks


Hardware specialists over at Bare Feats ran a series of interesting Final Cut Pro X benchmarks pitting the latest Sandy Bridge-equipped iMac and MacBook Pro against the last year’s Mac Pro. The iMac system rocked a 3.4GHz quad-core Core i7 processor with 16GB of DDR3 1333MHz RAM and AMD Radeon HD 6970M graphics with 2GB of GDDR5 video memory. The MacBook Pro was a 2.3GHz quad-core Core i7 system with 8G of DDR3 1333MHz RAM and AMD Radeon HD 6750M graphics with 1G of GDDR5 video memory. The 2010 Mac Pro desktop had a 3.33GHz six-core Westmere processor with 24GB of ECC DDR3 1333MHz RAM and AMD Radeon HD 5870 graphics with 1G of GDDR5 video memory.

Summing up, in two out of four benchmarks involving blur sharpen and blur directional effects the iMac came in first and the MacBook Pro outperformed or matched the Mac Pro. It is in the remaining two GPU-intensive tests – exporting a Final Cut Pro X project in H.264 (transcoding) and encoding a  Blu-Ray stream in Compressor 4 – that the Mac Pro shined. Although the benchmarks are far from conclusive, they give away the false impression of Apple favoring the newer Sandy Bridge architecture.

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Sony debuts Light Peak product in Europe with external GPU

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It looks like the report that Apple has a lock on Light Peak technology for a year was wrong.  Sony has gone ahead and announced their first Light Peak product in Europe and perhaps most interestingly, it contains an External GPU.  TIMN summerizes:

The vertically standing peripheral (pictured above) uses Intel’s Light Peak (yes, the same thing as Apple’s Thunderbolt) via a proprietary port and USB 3.0 socket to connect to the laptop. And not only does it provide an AMD Radeon HD 6650M with 1GB of VRAM, but also allows you to connect up to three additional displays via its HDMI and VGA ports.

One of the promises of Thunderbolt was External GPU video cards.  Imagine hooking your Thunderbolt-equipped, Sandy Bridge MacBook Air (with crappy integrated Intel GPU) to an external Thunderbolt GPU which drives a few 27-inch screens?

I like where this is going.

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